Domestic Gun Control Policy in Ten Southern African Countries
McKenzie, Katharine Mary
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The proliferation of small arms and light weapons in southern Africa is wide spread, yet under researched. This research report sets out current debates with regard to small arms and domestic gun control and analyses the global and regional context. Debates about domestic gun control take place within both popular discourse and policy circles, and impact on one another. lnternationally and in domestic contexts the debate spans polar view points which see either the right to own and bear firearms as fundamental, or the right to life, bodily integrity and protection from firearms as fundamental. Between these extremes fall most domestic gun control policies and laws. Although international law regulates the usage of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, there is no international legal instrument regulating the use of small arms. At the same time small arms are responsible for fueling the majority of the world's conflicts, with 47 of the 49 major conflicts in the 1990s waged with small arms as the weapons of choice. Small arms are also responsible for over half a million deaths per year. The closest the United Nations has come to regulating this area is its adoption in 2001 of the "Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eradicate the elicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All its Aspects". This Programme of Action, which also covers domestic firearm policy, is taken up by states on a voluntary basis only. ln southern Africa there is a growing awareness of the negative impact lax firearm controls have on regional security. Recent initiatives include the development by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) of a "Protocol on the Control of Firearms, Ammunition and Other Related Materials". This Protocol will enter into force once two thirds of the SADC members have ratified it. At present it has been ratified by seven states, while nine countries are required to ratify it for it to come into force. The varied approaches to domestic gun control policy and implementation are set out in a detailed account of gun control in 10 SADC states (Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe). Policy, legislation and practice are analysed for each country and the relationship between gun crime, legislation and policy explored. Recommendations for the improved management of firearms, both legal and illegal, are set out in conclusion. These include the need for deeper regional co-operation and integration to tackle the problem of small arms flows in the southern Africa; the need for greater harmony within the region's firearm laws in light of the impact policy in one state has on its neighbors; the need for a stronger role for legislatures particularly with regard to oversight; the need to monitor the impact of trade liberalization on the availability of small arms; and the need for more joint operations between states in southern Africa to eradicate stockpiles of illegal firearms and ammunition. The success of such operations has been proven with the recent success of the joint South African/Mozambican Operation Rachel.